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Meet the candidates: Bisbee voters have three choices for mayor at the polls on July 30

See full conversations below with the mayoral candidates
Posted: 5:10 AM, Jul 04, 2024
Updated: 2024-07-04 09:55:04-04
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BISBEE, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Bisbee mayoral race is nonpartisan, and falls this year on Tuesday, July 30.

KGUN 9's Blake Phillips sat down with the three candidates: incumbent Mayor Ken Budge and mayoral candidates Gretchen Bonaduce and Wanda Leikem.

*Editor's Note: Since these interviews, we have learned that the city of Bisbee will take over the uninsured building at 30 Main Street that was burned in the Valentine's Day fire.

Incumbent Mayor Ken Budge says he’s running for re-election because there's still more work to be done.

“I wasn't going to, but a lot of things started happening that I felt really needed some expertise to continue through,” Budge says. "When I realized the new City Hall was not going to get built before my term ended, that was one reason. Then the fire happened."

Candidate Gretchen Bonaduce says she has a businesswoman’s vision for Bisbee.

“I am running for Bisbee mayor because I feel like I can bring a lot to the table. I think my expertise is being a businesswoman," Bonaduce says. “I bought two houses that sat on the market for years and years that nobody wanted, and turned them into really successful businesses."

Wanda Leikem is a citizen candidate. She says she's a local resident who simply threw her hat into the ring.

“I really love Bisbee, and there's some things that I see that I just like to be a part of," Leikem says. "And be able to see what I could...what benefits can I bring."

One of the biggest issues Bisbee found itself faced with this year was the fire that destroyed two historic Main Street buildings on Valentine’s Day:

Ken Budge on the fire:

"Who better to shepherd through that whole thing than myself? And I realized, without the experience, that you will need to figure out what you're going to do with these buildings."

Gretchen Bonaduce on the fire:

"I think we have to preserve old Bisbee. It's what attracts tourists to come here in the first place."

At the time of this interview, one of the buildings was uninsured, leaving the taxpayers initially wondering: Who's going to front the bill? But in the time since, a new settlement says that the city will take over the building, and that the city will receive money from the owners on a monthly basis, until the debt is paid.

Wanda Leikem on the fire:

"I don't know if it were to come into the city's, you know, hands as a piece of property, and they didn't rebuild it, it would be nice, kind of like across the street, there's the little peddlers alley. I think there was a building there, but maybe creating another space with bathrooms, because bathrooms are really needed for the tourists."

The city of Bisbee has seen a renaissance of sorts over the past four years. More businesses like Bonaduce’s restaurant have moved in. And residents like Leikem have enjoyed seeing their hometown come back from the dead.

“I want to make sure people can feel comfortable to come forward and say, 'hey, I'd like to see this'," says Leikem.

WATCH UNEDITED INTERVIEW:

Full candidate interview: Wanda Leikem, Bisbee mayoral candidate

“I’m also going to donate my salary back to the community, because I feel like that. It's not that much money that you get being mayor, but you know that little bit of money can make a difference for a lot of people,” says Bonaduce.

WATCH UNEDITED INTERVIEW:

Full candidate interview: Gretchen Bonaduce, Bisbee mayoral candidate

“I will be asking the people to see if they feel they could trust me for two more years, that I am running on my record," says Budge. "If they are upset with my record of the things that I have accomplished…we want to be a place for families and a place for for people to to really have an enjoyable life.”

WATCH UNEDITED INTERVIEW:

Full candidate interview: Ken Budge, incumbent Bisbee mayor

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Blake Phillips is a reporter for KGUN 9. Originally from St. Louis, Mo., Blake grew up in Sierra Vista. During his college tenure at the Missouri School of Journalism, Blake worked for the NBC affiliate KOMU-TV in Columbia. He is excited to return to a place he calls home and give back to the community in which he grew up. Share your story ideas and important issues with Blake by emailing blake.phillips@kgun9.com.